In the U.S. highway system, a certain East Coast route stands out, especially for motorcycle riders. U.S. Highway 1 began as an “auto trail” in 1911, connecting Quebec with Miami. In 1926, the stretch of road from Calais, Maine, southward along the Atlantic was given the designation we know today—U.S. Highway 1 (US1). It’s the same US1 that’s familiar to any motorcycle rider who travels to Daytona Bike Week.
When the summer begins to swelter in the big cities of New England, the cool coast of Maine is a favorite escape from urban heat. Starting in Bath and heading north to Calais, US1 is the primary two-lane highway that provides access to Maine’s coast. From the Bath side of the Sagadahoc Bridge over the Kennebec River to Calais—which is along the Canada/U.S. border—it’s about a 230-mile ride. While it’s possible to make the long ride in a day with ample time to stop in a number of picturesque towns for shopping, meals, and gas, you could easily spend a week exploring the beauty and history of coastal Maine.
The Maine coastline is 3,478 miles long—that’s longer than the coast of California! It’s made up of rugged peninsulas accessible from roads that connect to US1 and is dotted with seaside villages and lighthouses. Towns like Boothbay Harbor, Bristol, Rockport, Camden, and Belfast are wonderful to explore. Along the way, you can enjoy fresh lobster and seafood, or whale watch and enjoy coastal boating adventures.
Heading further north – or “down east”– you’ll discover Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park. Take the scenic drive through the park and ride to the top of Cadillac Mountain. You can also visit Somes Sound, which is considered the only fjord on the East Coast. Heading further north, you leave most tourists behind and enter the beauty of rural coastal Maine.
New England Today came up with a list of some of the best choices of what to see and do while you travel US1. They include:
Farnsworth Museum of Art—Rockland:
The Farnsworth’s impressive collection of American art includes works by three generations of the Wyeth family. Fans shouldn’t miss the museum-owned Olson House in nearby Cushing.
Whether crafting birdhouses that resemble lobster buoys or knitting baby booties modeled on the L.L. Bean duck boot, Maine’s artisans are a creative bunch. This shop, associated with the Island Institute, gathers the work of more than 200 makers who live on the state’s islands and in remote coastal communities. There’s no better place to find the perfect memento of Maine.
Camden Hills State Park—Camden: An hour-long hike or a five-minute drive gets you to the summit of Mount Battie, centerpiece of the 5,650-acre Camden Hills State Park.
Sea Viper at Palace Playland—Old Orchard Beach: Palace Playland, New England’s only beachfront amusement park, has boasted several roller coasters since it first opened in 1902. The compact footprint, however, constrains the size of thrill rides.
Funtown/Splashtown—Saco: At this beloved institution, you’ll find rides that range from kid-friendly excitement to breathtaking thrills, with the latter including Maine’s only wooden roller coaster, New England’s longest and highest log flume, and the 220-foot plummet of the Dragon’s Descent turbo drop tower. And don’t forget to bring your swimsuit for the raft rides, slides, and other watery fun.
Big Chicken Barn—Ellsworth: Inside Ellsworth’s rambling, three-story Big Chicken Barn, you’ll find more than 50 vendors hawking antiques, books, and all manner of other treasures—from toys to kitchenware, quilts to furniture, artwork to musical instruments.
Maine Maritime Museum—Bath: The “Into the Lantern” exhibit at the Maine Maritime Museum captures the experience of the Cape Elizabeth Two Lights lantern room as its beacon brings sailors home. Video projections simulate the ever-changing ocean, while the centerpiece of the exhibit is the original second-order Fresnel lens that magnified and concentrated a lantern, so it could be seen far out to sea.
Enjoy your exploration of America’s most northeast state. One visit and you’ll want to come back again.
Till next time, ride safe!
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